Grandad’s Army

Volunteers Defending the British Isles in the First World War

Mike Osborne

This book tells the largely untold story of WWI's Volunteer Training Corps, the forgotten equivalent of World War II's Home Guard. Self-financing and training in their spare time they developed as an effective anti-invasion force. Alongside VTC were the many medical, transport, police and youth organisations which also kept the home fires burning.
Date Published :
March 2021
Publisher :
Fonthill Media
Illustration :
19 color and black & white
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781781558188
Pages : 386
Dimensions : 9.21 X 6.14 inches
Stock Status : In stock


In August 1914, on the outbreak of the First World War, there was enormous pressure on men to enlist in Kitchener’s New Armies, supplementing the tiny regular army and Territorial Force. This pressure was intense, and posters, the entreaties of local worthies, and an apparently indiscriminate scattering of white feathers, all exacerbated masculine sensitivity. We are all familiar, if only through BBC TV’s ‘Dad’s Army’, with the Home Guard of the Second World War.

Far less is known of their First World War equivalent: the Volunteer Training Corps (VTC). Like their counter-parts in WW2, the VTC comprised those who were too old, too young, too unfit or too indispensable to serve in the regular forces. They fought for the right to be armed, uniformed and trained; to be employed on meaningful duties; and at first, to exist at all. This book explores the origins, development and structure of the VTC, along with those who belonged to the many supporting medical, transport, police and youth organisations who kept the home fires burning or, in some cases, tried to put them out. The VTC arose from the need of those men who were forced to stay at home to be seen to be doing their bit. They saw the removal of the bulk of both the regular army and the Territorial Force to the Western Front as their opportunity to prepare to resist the expected German invasion of Britain, and as a way of countering accusations of shirking, or even cowardice.

About The Author

Dr Mike Osborne’s interest in fortification began with childhood visits to castles, and has developed over the years to include all aspects of the topic, from Iron-Age forts to Cold War bunkers. He was a volunteer-coordinator for the Defence of Britain Project, recording the military structures of the twentieth-century, and, after a thirty-year-career in education, took early retirement. Since then, he has produced nearly twenty books on topics that range from Civil War sieges and fortifications, to drill halls and twentieth-century military structures. He has also written a series of county surveys of defences, as well as the best-selling Defending Britain.


Introduction; Acknowledgements; Abbreviations; Chronology of the Volunteer Force in the First World War; 1 Britain’s tradition of volunteer armies; 2 The development of the Volunteer Training Corps; 3 A volunteer army takes shape: Public Image, Function and Operations; 4 Training, Weapons, Uniform and Personnel of the VTC/VF; 5 Involving the young volunteer: service and preparation; 6: Volunteer support services on the Home Front; 7 Volunteer forces in Ireland; Epilogue; Appendix 1 VTC and County Volunteer Regiments; Appendix 2 Cadet Units; Appendix 3 VTC badges and badge manufacturers; Appendix 4 The Royal Defence Corps; Appendix 5 Tour of Inspection of the VF by Lord French during autumn 1916; Appendix 6 The Home Front: Lines of Communication (TF); Appendix 7 The Special Service Companies, Summer 1918; Appendix 8 Some Unit strengths; Bibliography; Index.

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